“Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving” ~ Terry Pratchett.
When moving back home after living abroad, you’re bound to notice differences in even the smallest of things when you finally return. These smaller “first world problems” might be enough to make you groan but there are also meaningful dilemmas that may be reason for you to convince others why they should never become an expat.
When an opportunity arose for me to move to Wellington, New Zealand I literally jumped at it. I got so used to living there after 8 months that I almost forgot what life was like back home in Australia. Really! I’ve written more about my experience in Wellington and why earthquakes can be likened to your little brother.
Compared to others I know spending 8 months abroad is not a long time, although it was to me. But why? How is living abroad – even temporarily – different to living at home?
Here are 12 surprising problems I was confronted with on my arrival home that meant I’d been away for too long. Maybe you’ll able to relate to these too, particularly if your trip was for business and you were fortunate enough to be put up in a hotel or serviced apartment for an extended period.
If you want to see how many of these problems you can relate to, or are just curious about what to expect after living life abroad, read on for more!
When moving back home after living abroad, you suddenly realise…
1. You’re slamming everything
Doors, kitchen cupboards and drawers in your home get a brutal treatment in the first few days because the ones you got used to needed more force to close. You also try opening these things in all the wrong areas.
2. You have a new appreciation for sharp knives and decent cookware
Seriously, some of the communal kitchen equipment in hotels and serviced apartments completely ruins my day. It’s one of the first things I notice expats say about living in a different place – BYO kitchen utensils.
3. Your TV and fridge are suddenly giant
Compared to the size of hotel ones, since when was your old TV like being at the movie theatre?! You also realise you should win some kind of international Tetris award for the way you got used to squeezing your grocery shopping into a fridge not too much bigger than a mini-bar one.
4. There’s awkward waking moments
That split second you think you’re still in your abroad bedroom when you wake up. It’s surreal in the first few mornings as your brain doesn’t quite register where you are, you’ve been living abroad too long.
5. You have teleporting doorhandles
One of the first things you notice when moving back home after living abroad is some kind of fairy has shifted all the doorhandles in your home up or down several inches during your absence. When you reach for them, they seem to be in a different spot to what you’ve been used to.
6. Your home appliances are actually simple
Suddenly your microwave is easier to use than you previously thought, due to the weird buttons and sequences required on your hotel one. This also applies to white goods. Who knew you needed a zillion different buttons to get a clothes dryer working?
What’s it really like Living in Wellington?
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Traveller Stereotypes: What’s an Invisible Tourist? (Part 1)
Traveller Stereotypes: What’s an Invisible Tourist? (Part 2)
7. You’re no longer royalty
If you’ve been put up in a hotel or serviced apartment by your employer, it’s likely you’ll have the luxury of housekeeping. Having this frequent service made you feel like you belonged in some sort of Royal Family. Those days are now over and you need to clean up after yourself. Ha.
8. You’re confusing your cupboards
You forgot what supplies you have in your home cupboards as you mix them up with the recent stuff you had abroad. Like, you know you bought a small tomato sauce recently, but… Oh, it’s in the abroad pantry.
9. You feel like a foreigner in your home city
For me, coming back home to Australia and hearing Aussie accents again unexpectedly made everyone sound bogan… Sorry guys, it’s true! After having to adjust your vocabulary to your abroad country, what does all this mean again??
10. Realise the same temperature can feel drastically different
For instance, 18°C/64°F may usually be quite a warm day where you were living abroad. If you’ve returned home to a country with quite high humidity you’ve probably forgotten that 18°C/64°F is actually bloody freezing! Time to dig out those Ugg boots instead of throwing on a t-shirt.
11. It takes a while to get used to your home currency again
Until now you didn’t notice some coins from home were large enough to be used as doorstops… Or that awkward moment when you say to the cashier “Oh, I’ve got that extra dollar” when you’re sifting through your wallet for change but the currency you’re meant to be using is the Euro or other currency. It’s the little things!
12. You’re disappointed to do the grocery shopping
The chocolate, cheese and cider you fell in love with abroad isn’t available in your local supermarket at home. Sigh. Can someone invent teleporting already?!
Concluding what it’s like moving home after living abroad
These niggly things were just a few that greeted me when I tried to get back to normal life home in Australia. I had never lived anywhere else prior to my stint in New Zealand so I had no idea what to expect! Hopefully these little nuances have given you a little insight into what it’s like moving home after living abroad, as well as given you a chuckle if you were able to relate to them.
Do you have any others you realised when moving back home after living abroad? What things surprised you? I’d love to hear what you noticed when you moved back home to add to this list!
If you have always wondered what it’s like living in a specific city around the world, be sure to check out my “Be Invisible” Series – it the ultimate guide to help you NOT look like a tourist, written by locals I’ve reached out to across the globe!
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You got me on Numbers 8 and 12. Another biggy for me was that, as hard of a time as I had learning the language in other countries, I found that it just rolled off my tongue once I was back in my home country! At times, I could think of the Dutch or French, or Papiamento word but couldn’t remember the English word! (*Even now, some 15 years later, my husband will sometimes forget an English word while preaching but remembers the Dutch word and will stop and ask me from the pulpit what it is in English!
Hahah wow that’s a great one, Gail! Isn’t it so typical? 😆 Our brains are definitely interesting! Thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙂
Haha I agree with so many of these points. Some Aussie accents still make me wince, despite the fact that I’ve been home for months now. And the first thing I did was rush out and buy decent knives!
Glad you can relate, LC! Lol about the knives, isn’t it funny… Sometimes you don’t appreciate the small things you had until they’re gone!